Ka'au Crater

HARD 372 reviews
#2 of 10 trails in

Ka'au Crater is a 5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Honolulu, Hawaii that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November.

DISTANCE
5.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2020 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

birding

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

muddy

old growth

over grown

rocky

scramble

no dogs

This hike is challenging and can be slippery and dangerous. If you don't know how to navigate in the outdoors you should consider another trail that is well-marked OR hike the trail in a counter-clockwise route as far as the waterfall and return the way you came. This is an amazing hike with three waterfalls and gorgeous views of Honolulu, Kaneohe, Kailua, Diamond Head, and Ka'au Crater. This hike is not too challenging until the 3rd waterfall which you climb up to get to the ridge portion of the hike. This is where it got extremely muddy and a bit dangerous. The view from the top of the ridge is incredible! Pack more food and water than you think you'd need, it's very steep and tiring. The trailhead is cleverly hidden behind the mailboxes on left of the road at the end of Waiomao Road which is a right turn off of 10th Street. Get out of your little car and you will see the hand lettered sign on the tree behind the mailboxes. The trail starts DOWN into the streambed / rain forest.

This was my first hike in Hawaii and it is absolutely gorgeous and worth the challenges of this trail. I would definitely do this hike again. Also this is a 9 1/2 mile hike!

hiking
3 days ago

hiking
4 days ago

5 days ago

That was the most exhausting trail that we have ever done. We're moderate hikers (no experts). It took us 6h 40m. Especially the loop after climbing up the waterfalls was challenging and dangerous. Parts of it are similar to a muddy helter-skelter. If you're not fully concentrated and fit here, you can get hurt easily. Other parts are just plain mud or mud combined with tree roots. So be prepared to get dirty, start early, check the weather forecast and avoid this trail during rain. Must be horrible then.

On the bright side, what you get is: stunning waterfalls, fun climbing, beautiful vegetation, great views over Honolulu, the Crater and the north of the island. Absolutely worth it.

5 days ago

7 days ago

This hike is actually 10 miles long!!! Very muddy! Climbing up the waterfalls was awesome. It rained on us at some point

8 days ago

hiking
8 days ago

8 days ago

Looking to hike this September 8th, starting in the AM. Based on the reviews I might be safer going with a hiking buddy. I'm in decent shape and looking for an adventurous challenge! If you're interested, email me: eabsears@gmail.com.

hiking
9 days ago

11 days ago

hiking
12 days ago

13 days ago

Amazing trail. Very physically demanding. Bring more water than you think you’ll need. We brought 3 gallons for me, my wife and pup and drank it all before we finished. Dogs can do this trail if you have a bad ass dog that is very athletic and can scale rocks.

**NOTE** Make sure once you reach the peak of the crater and start your descent, you take the hidden left over a tree stump. Otherwise you will go right (unknowingly) and head towards a completely different peak.

13 days ago

hiking
15 days ago

Absolutely unforgettable hike. I have done a lot of hiking in my life, mostly in California, but this one tops my list, hands down. It is ridiculous how much beauty is in Hawaii and this hike immerses you in the best of it. You start by hiking through a jungle or trees and a babbling creek. Right away you get a taste of how intense this hike is as you descend from the trailhead down, over rocks, and into the creek. You will get muddy on this hike, there is no way to avoid it. I tried to avoid it at the start but then caved in and just embraced the mess. Its all a part of the experience! The first hour is pretty much the same until you get the waterfalls. The first waterfall is the most stunning visually. There is a small pool at the bottom that you can swim in. I didn't but others mentioned that they did. It is at the first waterfall where I made my first mistake on the trail. I went down into the waterfall/creek area and then tried to pick the trail up from there. It wasn't until my return journey that I realized I had missed the more heavily and easier trail that doesn't go down to the waterfall but skirts up its left side. I went down and then found a rabbit trail that led up the left side, It was hard and you could tell it wasn't the most traveled trail but I was committed so I made it to the top. The second waterfall is just 10 minutes from the first and not that spectacular but still beautiful. The third waterfall is the one that you climb up right beside it. It is much longer than the others and has ropes leading most of the way up. When you get to the top you have another trail decision. I stuck to the left and went clockwise around the crater. I didn't know that most people stick to the right and go counter-clockwise. I don't think it matters but everyone I passed said I was going backwards! The crater is what makes this hike in my opinion. Don't stop at the falls, keep going! It is worth it. You will be rewarded with some intense mud, climbing on your hands and knees through it, and out of this world views. Take your time, enjoy the views, and embrace the mess. Oh and just trust the ropes. I didn't at first but after a while you just go with it! It makes it so much easier! I made the entire hike in about 5.5 hours, with plenty of stops for picture and soaking in the views.

16 days ago

This hike has all the best to offer... amazing views, waterfalls, awesome workout, crazy exposure, challenging pitches, moss gardens on the way down, lemon trees, and LOTS of dirt. Get ready to get dirty. Not for the faint of heart if you don’t like heights. The eastern ridge of the crater makes up a part of the koolau mountain ridge just to the west of Kailua and Kaneohe, with sheer 100-200 ft drop offs all along the trail. Best hike on the island.

17 days ago

hiking
20 days ago

If you are a relatively inexperienced hiker, this one is TOUGH. With lots of stops, photos, and a picnic, this trail took us 8 hours. Extremely steep in many areas, very muddy and slippery. The first part of the hike is through the rainforest to the first waterfall with several stream crossings and is moderate. The second part is climbing up the sides of several beautiful waterfalls. This was difficult, but made easier with the ropes that were there and was a ton of fun and incredibly beautiful. The third part is a ridge hike along the rim of the crater.

Some important things to note: Bring much more water and food than you think you need. We both drank 2 liters and could've easily had more. Also, start EARLY, around 7-8am at the latest, especially if you are a slower hiker. Getting stuck in the woods in the dark was something we were very worried about. Wear proper footwear. We had waterproof hiking boots with good traction, and probably would have not made it without them. Sneakers just won't do, or at the very least, they'll slow you down considerably and make the hike more dangerous. The ridge portion of the hike was the hardest. It was incredibly steep in some areas, and I almost couldn't get up in some places. The downward descent is slippery and very dangerous with the steep slopes on either side.

Finally, a few tips about directions- to find the trailhead, walk all the way down the road to the "do not enter" signs. You'll see a group of mailboxes to the left before the signs. Go behind the mailboxes to find the trailhead, which is a series of boulders to scramble down. Also, when you are about halfway along the ridge of the crater, there is a very easy to miss fork in the trail. Go to the LEFT over the fallen tree (doesn't look much like a trail) to continue on the loop back down. If you go right, the trail becomes EXTREMELY dangerous and takes you to the very top peak for a much longer hike. And finally, while you are descending you will find one more subtle fork. Go to the RIGHT (there is a pole with a hiking sticker marking the correct trail) so that you don't have to climb back down the waterfalls and instead have a different and easier route down.

Overall, an incredible, beautiful, and grueling hike.

hiking
20 days ago

This was one heck of a hike. I actually did it solo because my friend couldn't make it, and I really had a bug to go hiking. The trail is VERY tricky, and honestly it probably was not the brightest idea to do it alone. I say it was tricky because there are trails that are NOT apart of the main trail but are marked clearly with pink ribbons. There is one area in the beginning where I followed a side trail and I gained elevation quickly, but there were so many ribbons so I continued onward despite the trail not making sense. LUCKILY... because of this app I realized that my elevation was super high, and that I was about a mile off trail. So I did double back and find the correct trail thanks to this app!!! After I got back on track, I was so HAPPY I continued onward. The trail is beautiful. The waterfalls are magnificent, and there are barely any people hiking it. So it feels untouched, besides the giant water pipe that extends to the first waterfall. It blows my mind how the state, or whatever private entity, was able to construct miles of this crazy pipe through rugged terrain. ANYWAY, the waterfalls are roughly 50-100 feet, and you get to climb up them! It was amazing, and the crater itself it so gorgeous! However, it is very strenuous, and it can be dangerous too!!! Please be safe, and do not rush. Seriously. Also, I brought nearly 3 liters of water for my self, and a ton of snacks. It was more than I needed, but it is worth it!!! Take the extra gear, especially a hat, and it will pay dividends to you! Do not be unprepared. MAKE SURE you check your location frequently to assure you are on the right path. It might seem easy to get lost, and there are other paths on the trail. Just be careful!!! The crater goes counter clockwise as well. So keep that in mind. The trail took me about 6 hours, but about an hour and a half of it was GETTING LOST and making my way back. I was fortunate that nothing happened, and I was prepared. Please be so as well! Good luck to you guys. Hope this helped in some way shape or form. Shoots!